Friday, September 03, 2010

Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely

Title: Permission to Speak Freely
Author: Anne Jackson
Published: Nashville: Thomas-Nelson, 2010.

Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and GraceIt is easier to cover ourselves under a jacket of niceness, than to reveal our inner shirt of honesty. Following the trend sparked by Adam and Eve, we hide under the fear of being exposed. We run away from our true selves by being less than truthful with others. We flee away from authenticity and bury ourselves under the mud of less than honest living. Our inner thoughts and feelings we conceal, choosing to display only a fraction of who we are. One question proves to be an effective key to unlocking the inner struggles of many people:

About the Book
“What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in the Church?”

This one question posted on Anne Jackson’s blog ( sparks a flurry of responses. Strangers and anonymous people write in to share. Old wounds are revisited. Past hurts are revealed. It resurrects past pains. It sends one struggling to decide whether to open up or to continue clamping down on sharing. For those who choose to share, out of this openness, flows an amazing river of opportunity to heal and to exorcise past demons.

Anne touches our hearts about openness and brutal honesty. Beginning with her own traumatic growing up years as a pastor`s kid, Jackson dives into her past encounters with Church. The Church culture she lives in prefers an idealistic but artificial lifestyle over a broken but real life. By doing so, she tells readers that it is not only possible but ok to be open about our own past. Nothing is impossible, like a recovery from past hurts such as sexual abuse, and ridiculous expectations from church people.

Purpose and Style
The purpose of the book is to remind readers that honesty is still the best policy. Secrets can only be kept for a certain amount of time. It will eventually be revealed. If that is the case, why hide? Why keep things to yourself? Why allow yourself to be tormented if you can be freed from the chains of the past? All it is necessary is to know in the heart that it is ok, and very ‘Christian’ to speak freely. The Church has to be a place for people to share their authentic selves, and not only the choicest part of one’s life. God calls the whole being, and not only a part of a person. Jackson observes Jesus’ life on earth and concludes that "the truest things in life must be discovered . . . through wrestling, . . . through blood and sweat and tears.” (185)

An experienced writer herself, Jackson avoids the conventional self-help book structure and opts for a different format.
You’ve challenged yourself to think outside chapters that seamlessly flow in and out of each other and instead jumped into a messy combination of art and story and Scripture.” (183)

She combines her confession with stories her fans reveal to her. She pieces her broken expectations with a firm belief in God. She highlights her learning moments with a dosage of cold revelation of her addictions, her struggles and her periods of depression. A porn addict, she was able to relate particularly to people who experience the same.

My Comments
The book is indeed a messy combination but with a purpose: Fighting Fear and Sighting Hope. Pages of notes and snippets of people’s lives are printed at the end of each of the three parts. These are heartbreaking notes of despair and shocking revelation of brokenness. There are questions regarding why people in the Church behave so un-Christianly. Incidentally, I feel that the way Jackson lets people communicate the way they feel is brilliant. There is no better way than to let people speak for themselves in ways they choose to be authentic. The way to healing begins by recognizing we are first of all broken people. As we meander through the ups and downs of bad memories and stunted hopes, together with Christ as our Guide, then and only then can we embark upon a journey of healing and growth.

This book is not difficult to read, length and language-wise. It is not very heavy or intellectually challenging. Instead, the most difficult part about the book is how we let our heart be honest with God, with people and with ourselves. Perhaps, this book can encourage us to practice honesty beginning with ourselves. Let both the reader and the listener read this book for maximum understanding and benefit.

Jackson ends the book to invite the reader to participate as rescuers of hurt people.

"We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter." (164)



"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller."


Anne Jackson said...

Thanks so much for your review of PTSF...It means a lot that you would read and engage with it on such a thoughtful level.


YAPdates said...


Thank you for your comment. You have written a very helpful book that encourages believers to be honest and open with one another. Looking forward to your next work.


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